Hey grandma Renate, what the heck is… #ToxicMasculinity

October 26, 2022

Recently I met up with a good friend at a café just to chat about anything and everything.  Honestly, it does wonders for our souls to meet now and then on a regular Wednesday for a  relaxing gab fest about every topic under the sun. We were talking and swapping grandma  stories, when we overheard a novel expression from the table next to us: “toxic masculinity”.  Sitting at the next table were two young, very friendly looking women, who were involved in a quite emotional conversation about their work team. No, I’m not an eavesdropper, but the discussion was quite heated and therefor louder than usual. Quietly I asked my friend if she had  ever heard the expression toxic masculinity? She hadn’t. So, I dictated this term to the Notes App on my phone – quietly of course – in order to investigate further at home.  

What do you think this expression could imply?  

At first, before consulting Google, I already understood it to have a negative connotation. Masculinity means to me the characterization of a male person, including personal qualities,  nature, and appearance which altogether make up male character. From these impressions we  develop human interests in and connections to men in general. It can’t just be the superficial  “looks only”! – whether in romance, in professional life, 9 to 5 and in leisure times, wherever  we encounter each other on an equal basis as people. I interpret toxic masculinity as poisonous masculinity – or does the definition of toxic limit me here too much? Do I lack the imagination  for a freer interpretation? Or is this about men who can’t deal with today’s image of women, or  with a broader range of gender identities, and believe that only typically masculine males are of high significance?  

Toxic Masculinity (also “poisonous masculinity”, English: toxic masculinity) is a buzzword for a role model, “that suggests inherent to masculinity are aggressiveness and endorsement of the  subordination of women”. It manifests itself with norms of masculinity that legitimize violence -  shaped by dominating, destructive behavioral patterns. This traditional model is validly labeled as “toxic”, since it is extrinsic as well as self-destructive. Generally, violence, dominance, aggression, misogyny, and homophobia are associated with the term.  

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxische M%C3%A4nnlichkeit

And, what do you think? Would you have come up with that? What is your opinion about  toxic masculinity? 

I wasn’t wrong with my assumption! I think the women in the café do have problems in their  work environment – presumably with male employers who haven’t caught up yet with this day  and age. That’s a shame and quite sad. I assume a resolution will take quite a long time and  require a lot of additional clarification. Sometimes I had assumed that our society was at a more advanced stage in the question of how to coexist.

Did you ever experience toxic masculinity in your work environment?  

For sure! I met some “pride of creation” gentlemen who had expertise and held prominent  positions. Nevertheless, their image of women was often stubbornly wrongheaded! To be honest, most of my many male colleagues were kind, friendly, polite, and appreciative employees who “walked the talk” of equal gender treatment!  

You, as a tough power-woman, how did you deal with toxic masculinity in and out of work situations?  

When I was personally affected, I knew how to defend myself with words and set very clear  boundaries! As I was also an instructor during my employment, the male and female trainees  always knew: should apparent misbehavior of a colleague or customer come to light, your  instructor is here and will clarify things. In one case it led to a warning for the male colleague!  And that was appropriate! Still today I won’t shut up, won’t quietly look on, when injustice  happens right in front of me! 

A big sign of change is the MeToo debate and the successes it achieved. This is perhaps THE actual catalyst in our time for the cry of STOP - this has to end! Awareness of the bigger picture – and also the local prospective! Advance this approach, and no longer buy in, but fight back! In one’s employment as well as in the private sphere. Changes are underway. Companies nowadays already recruit women when offering lead positions, which shows that traditional hierarchies are being shaken up. Just this July 2022 the Women’s European Soccer  Championship brought us forth so much joy and excitement all around, so that at last this domain isn’t clouded by toxic masculinity anymore. Certainly, the end of this story has not been written yet… nonetheless it’s a major step in the right direction that we can achieve together – and if female and male soccer players receive equal salaries, then we have taken a big stride  toward the goal!  

Renate, in your opinion, how much sense does the term toxic masculinity make? How many  points do you award it in all?  

This compound, established term has more relevance than ever! Our society in all its diversity and vigor, in all its aspects, must realize that this toxic masculinity poisons individuals, poisons some portion of society! Peaceful acceptance of one another, together with empathy among all, must be our shared goal! Of course, we are talking here about behavior patterns of men –  and these are imprinted during their upbringing! The reform of behavior patterns during  childhood must be the first step – this principle or something like it is stated in sociology….  

Men themselves can learn to change their unconsciously instilled and adopted behavior patterns. When they come to the realization that toxic masculinity poisons their being and harms the people around them, they should be brave enough to observe and change their own behavior. So many men – and I believe the majority of men- live and act with this aspiration for  themselves and for their role in our society! 
On my part- because of its current relevance - I give the phrase a 5-out of-5 in Boomer Rating.